Carolina Panthers wide receiver Damiere Byrd can fly. The Houston Texan’s defense learned that first-hand during the Carolina Panther’s first preseason game of 2017.
Entering his third year as a Carolina Panther, Damiere Byrd knows his role. After making the 53-man roster last year, Byrd’s confidence grew sky high.
“What happened last year shows that I can make this team. It shows that I can make plays for this team … just continue to be who I am.”
Byrd continued to be the same player he knows he is as he entered his first preseason game of 2017. Going against the Texan’s vaunted defense is no easy task, but Byrd took on the challenge. As a result, he finished the night with four receptions for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns before heading for the sideline in the third quarter.
What stood out was Byrd’s ability to gain separation.
In the above illustration, Damiere Byrd faces off against the Texans corner Robert Nelson Jr. on the outside. He beats the corner and runs horizontally, widening the space between the corner and himself. All Panthers Quarterback Joe Webb has to do is place the ball right in the hands of a wide open Damiere Byrd for an easy touchdown.
One thing the Carolina Panthers offense lacked in 2016 was receivers with the ability to separate. According to Matt Harmon of NFL.com, Panthers QB Cam Newton threw into tight windows the most in the NFL, with 24.9% of his passes going to a receiver with less than a yard of separation. This led to one of Cam Newton’s worst statistical seasons of his career.
Damiere Byrd helps change that. As Byrd’s film shows, he gains an ample amount of separation vertically and horizontally.
On this play, Damiere Byrd appears to be running an out route down deep against the Texans corner. He beats #21 up top on the route and catches a decent pass from Joe Webb. Afterwards, Byrd turns his way forward and gains a small amount of yards after catch.
As seen, Damiere Byrd gains separation vertically and horizontally. Whatever role he’s placed in, Byrd finds a way to get open with separation.
Like former Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., Damiere Byrd is a speedy deep burner. According to NFL.com, Damiere Byrd ran a 4.28 on grass at USC’s pro day in 2015. When given the opportunity, Damiere Byrd can outrun any corner down deep with his speed.
Damiere Byrd runs a post route and recognizes a mismatch opportunity. He notices the Texan safety down on the play, leaving him on a one-on-one opportunity with Texan corner Robert Nelson Jr. As a result, Byrd speeds past Nelson Jr. down deep for the touchdown.
Byrd burst with excitement when he talked about his touchdown:
“…I was ready,” Byrd said. “It means a lot to me. Anytime you have a touchdown in this league, it means a lot. I’m happy to be out here.”
An Opportunity To Shine
If the Panthers offense wants to succeed in 2017, they need a reliable deep threat. Without one, the offense’s intermediate/short game options will be limited. The Panthers need someone who can stretch the field and force defensive backs deep down the field, opening up the middle of the field.
Damiere Byrd’s performance for the night demonstrates his potential as a weapon for the Panthers offense. Not only was he the best player on the field, Byrd strengthened his case to make the 53-man roster once again and obtain a larger role as a deep threat.
With Curtis Samuel’s hamstring in question and Ted Ginn Jr. sent off to the Saints, Damiere Byrd has an opportunity to claim that vacant role as a deep threat. Knowing that, Byrd understands he needs to maximize his three years of experience in every opportunity given to him.
“Being in the playbook for three years already I’ve really learned a lot, everything that I need to know to be able to be out there efficiently without thinking and just be able to go out there and play.”
Even so, Damiere Byrd is just grateful to be able to fly like a bird and make plays for the Carolina Panthers.
“It means a lot. It’s a dream of everybody’s to be able to play for an organization as great as this in the NFL. It’s always great to step on the field.”